Monday, December 13, 2021

Not Dead Yet

 Above: a copyright free image from the Art Institute of Chicago.


Part of the social distancing policy for we hermits involves social invisibility. 

Since the last post, I've been fishing the Madison in Montana, and have been up north in Michigan camping and fishing a dozen times. Somehow, posting the trivial narrative of my adventures seems meaningless.


I am alive, tying flies, and planning for next year. 


I have also started some pursuits in astrophotography as trout and stars both like clean air in remote locations away from a population, its lights, and its pollution of all sorts.


This year my Christmas gift giving list only includes  only vaccinations (shingles, pneumonia, flu, covid I & II, and a booster). Give the whole set. Keep your fishing partners alive.

Until the spring sunshine sees us all in better states of mind and health ...

Happy Holidays.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Trout Family


At left, my trout family. Picture courtesy the Lovely Courtney.

We make our own way upstream. We look for cooler water. We try to find a place with cover and food.

These are my trout guys. On the right: Big Bear. Next: The Senator. Third from the right is Mike who is part steelhead whisperer. Third from the left is his brother Mobes whose wedding we had the pleasure of attending this weekend. (Welcome Debs). The guy wearing the tablecloth from an Italian restaurant is the Wilson. I'm the guy on the left who minutes before shed his sport coat due to the 85% humidity and spousal dancing obligations.

We're out of uniform being reasonably cleaned-up,  mostly shaved or at least trimmed, questionably sober, and sans waders.

It is important to have  trout family. It's important to make family if yours turns out to be a festering bowl of shit. It's a biological luck of the draw if you leave it to nature. These folks have removed the random affair and made family from active choice. We're chosen family.

So, We're preparing for outings. We're talking trout. We're pondering gear we don't need and waters we've read about.

Next up: Montana for me. For the group? Maybe Washington. Maybe Alaska.  We talked NakNek rainbows. We talked Situk steelhead. We talked other places. We'll see.

We're planning trips. I hope you are too.




Thursday, June 24, 2021

Trout Camping Summer Style


At left, my walleye fishing buddy Mike (takes me into Canada with him when Canada is open)  in front of the Nemo Dark Timber tent we used for four nights here this past week up on the Au Sable outside of Grayling, Michigan.

There are no grayling in Grayling, Michigan anymore. Just wanted to clear that up.

Trout? Yes. Grayling? No.

Mike fishing the Holy Waters section of the Au Sable mainstream down from Guides' Rest against a lovely batch of iris. They're not native but they are lovely.

So, we had bluebird days without a cloud (trout hate bright days without clouds) and cool nights (37 Wednesday night by the tent thermometer before dawn). 

 It was a Michigan summer outing. We had warm. We had cool. There were rumours of Drakes and Hex. There was a dramatic cool down in the evening we went hexing and hexing. In fact, the river died about ten minutes before sunset that night and stayed that way for over an hour growing cooler and less hex-like.

We caught fish. Nothing big ... but fish.

We ran into poachers on the Black taking fish on chicken parts in a john-boat and putting all of the catch into a cooler. We didn't realize what they were doing until they slid the boat past us over gravel then proceeded to float a spring hole and vacuum the fish out indiscriminately. They were locals. They were in camo, And, I didn't want to get shot. It happens.

We ate well.

Mike cooking double Iowa chops one evening.

We fished the Mainstream Holy Waters, the Mason Tract South Branch Au Sable, the North Branch Au Sable, The Black, The Deward Tract Manistee, and the mainstream Manistee below Goose Creek Horse Camp (thanks, Lauren!).

 We ran a dry camp. No alcohol of any sort consumed. No damage done there.

We engaged in first class bushwacking without breaking any rods. We caught fish on size 18 soft hackles and size 14 caddis as well as a few more specialized flies and micro-streamers.

It was a good outing and all worked well. 

 We fell asleep in the Nemo Stargazer chairs reviewed in the preceding post so I have to say they passed a "trout fishing" comfort test.

Obligations keep me from the "trout belt" of Michigan until August. My next big outing will be the Madison River at Sun West during July. Lifetime trip, I think. I'll let you know.



Monday, June 7, 2021

Nemo Stargazer Chair for Camp


Waiting. We spend a lot of time at trout camps waiting. Watching. Thinking. Talking. 

Sure we fish; but, for every hour on the stream is an hour in the darkness, the too bright, the too early, the too late. We're sitting through those times.

I can't fix your chronic wind knots or mis-matched hatch hopes (and aren't all our fly choices merely hopes unrealized from the other parts of our lives?). I can fix your sitting and waiting.

We all have 1960's era webbed chairs or the Wal-Mart special collapsible numbers with the poor support and finger-pinching expanding set-up.

I give you: The Nemo Stargazer.

This chair solves your problems as you and your buddies are solving the world's own. Or the trout's. Or the reason why that 1990's era F-150's  electronic ignition is a P.O.S.

I digress.

The Nemo Stargazer: a super-comfortable chair able to double as a suitable recliner for trout-camp naps. Works on your deck. Works on a bank. Works at the campground. It even works at the community ice cream social and symphony band concert (I have a great many professors in my small town including a sizable number from the faculty of the music department of Giant University next door - so our community band approaches the level of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields). 

But, the chair.

It is a rocker due to its suspended nature. It is sturdy like a fine shovel. It is supportive (back patient here so I know supportive) and comfortable all at the same time. It reclines to about a 140 degree position with a headrest secured by velcro which is easy to reposition.

Stargazing? Sure. Trout napping? That too.

It isn't too low, too high, nor does the band under your thighs cut into you after an hour of discourse.

You should buy one. Hey, they're way cheaper than that rod you have in the arsenal which your rarely fish. How many "rods I don't use" do you need, anyway? You have twice that number.


Angled view on my deck.

Recline-o-matic webbing strap. The mechanism works like a Barcalounger: you just push back or sit up and the chair adjusts. It is stable in the whole range of motion.

The frame: shock-corded poles (think tent) of heavy aluminum and the cross-piece brackets are milled aluminum. Tougher than a Bougle. Yep, I'll stand by that statement.

The suspension clips with a positive locking mechanism. The chair does not "slip off" the stand in use. Good thing, that.

You'd be sound asleep if it did slip off so, all's the better.

The chair/net/basket. It's a one-piece meash chair with embedded supports for grab handles (sit/stand for old guys) and two continuous vertical back support rods.






Last picture, I promise. Freestanding on my deck in maybe better light.








The only complaint: maybe could want a footstool. Well, you have a cooler in the truck, don't you? It isn't doing any good in there. Pull it out, perch up, and enjoy trout bliss.

You might need to set an alarm so you get up and go check the hatch. Just sayin'.

Nemo Stargazer 


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Odd Sping


My buddy on the water last Saturday. We fished the Upper Manistee (Deward) during a too bright day.

It started well. We waited for shadows and had a couple fish hit. Then, nothing.

It has been very cool then quite hot for us. We had 88 degrees last weekend. Sleep on top of the bag type weather.  There is a theory that while the bugs have caught on, the trout lag and the unusually bright skies are not helping.

We fished the evening hatch on the Au Sable until well after dark. We landed rough fish. No trout.

Fun though.

George: my 3 man Marmot Tungsten.  My buddy has the same and pitched it Saturday night.

Solid tent.

Interior with a low cot.

Tarp practice. Haven't rigged a shelter for a while but this did indeed work well. Those heavy poles are especially nice to prop out the wings. Stood up to a bit of a blow before dawn on Saturday.

The holiday weekend is coming which to me means project time. Back to the rivers in June.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

In the Swing


The Deward Tract on the Manistee River last weekend.

It was a beautiful weekend but the nights were very cold. I slept in my Canadian 0 degree bag with a fleece over bag. Indeed, I was toasty but for the tip on my nose.

I had a great weekend camping and fishing even if the fish were more inclined to nymphs than I was. My faith lay in the soft hackle and the Leisenring Lift. Alas, it was not enough.

One must embrace one's beliefs without reservation and I've never been sufficiently dogmatic to will things to happen.

Some flies I worked over this wonderful water:

A Coachman style soft hackle which usually rouses brookies.  Partridge hackle, silk in scarlet and herl.

Here, a proven winner.

I believe this is Pearsall's purple (dwindling supply) but my color vision has left me. If I'm wrong, apologies. I believe this is one of the grouse variants tied thanks to Brian giving me one of his wonderful skins.

Ah, we are going old old school here....

The cock-y-bondu tied in a simple style. Furnace hackle and herl on a Partridge heavy soft-hackle hook I bought a few years back at Dette Flies in New York.

Anyway, I had an awesome weekend despite the cold and the uncooperative trout. The bugs were out. I had plenty of bugs: BWOs, a few Hendrickson, a smattering of caddis.

Below, camp pictures. The bear tent.


The new cookstove which made awesome chili ( hey, when faced with a cold night chili is a welcome meal).

This is a Camp Chef Everest stove (the 2x model) which is a beast. Built like a tank it generates an impressive 20K BTU that will boil coffee toot-sweet. What makes it special? Low low simmer where the burner really does hold the flame. 

Eggs over easy are no effort at all on this thing.  If you cook instead of boil: get this stove (but don't pack it in ... heavy).

Below: a panorama. Michigan did some selective harvest forestry (aka clear-cut)  on ground next to Canoe Harbor campground. This was a wonderful wooded campsite four years ago but today is less than a stump farm. It will come back but not for a bit. The breeze will however keep the bugs down!

I'm big on field hygiene (thanks, Col. Wiley) and here hanging is my Sunday morning wash basin.

This is the ice off the top of the water. Froze up nicely. 


Lastly, two pictures of joy. 

A Hardy perfect sized 3 1/4" trout in gunmetal on a McKellip M84.

Great rod, Mike!

Nice reel, John. Thanks for the sponsorship for this model.

A marsh marigold.

And what looks back at me from the mirrors all too often.

Maybe I'll see you next weekend -- on the water.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Season's Start


Above: Gates Lodge on the Holy Waters of the Au Sable in east of Grayling, Michigan.
Usually, the opener brings a witty or clever or funny message. This year there is little laughter. The 2020 season was a huge "no go" on socialization for most of us and our fishing suffered for it. So this year: a simple message that the fish are out there.
I opened Saturday with the North Branch of the Au Sable upstream from Lovells, Michigan. It is brook trout water but int he past three years, we've had some sort of event which decimated the population. The good news: they're back.
Below, a couple of small brookies from my efforts. Actually, they're two of a total of six that I managed to get in a net.   The one on top I had to work to get the take every bit as hard as a trophy brown.

I was grinning like a drunken skunk when he came to the net.


All my fish were taken on soft hackles in the top eight inches of water. It was awesome!


Saturday night saw a lovely small socially-distancing after-opener party hosted by my friend Lauren at her cabin on the Manistee. We had burgers and brauts cooked over the firepit. Lovely time. 

The evening was less thrilling. I camped. Rain turned to cold (I used a 0 degree bag)  and then this morning, sleet. Yea, sleet!

I broke camp and loose packed my tent fly in a construction garbage bag for the four hour ride home (road construction season). When I got it out to put it in the sun and breeze to dry, it was still coated with ice.

Luckily, it is sunny and forty-five degrees at home. Great drying day for boots, waders, and tents.

I hooked six fish. Three I had to work diligently to earn the take. Two to net, two lost at net (barbless fishing), and two to long distant release.

I had a blast. I hope your opener goes as well.


Watch the ice build-up.